The author S.A. Joo's Writing & Editing Advice & Tips

A professional Editor and YA Writer, represented by Black Hawk Literary Agency.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Revision by Lee Prewett The Editor (Guest Post)

Lee Prewett is a wonderful tweep and an excellent editor. If you need his help or service, look below for his info. Enjoy his post on revision.
Dear Editor, please make my story perfect!
Novice writers often assume revision and editing are synonymous when in fact they represent two discrete functions. Revision deals with storyline, accuracy, fact checking, and word choice, while editing addresses grammar, mechanics, and formatting. Without the former, the latter is a complete waste of time. 
Though editors differ, I never read for storyline and mechanics at the same time. Until the storyline is final, what would be the purpose of locating mechanics glitches and dealing with formatting? Moreover, kind authors attempt to rid their pieces of mechanical errors before the file hits the editor’s screen.
Seasoned authors know revision is not a cursory activity, but rather one usually taking longer than writing the story in the first place. Writing a novel is easy and anyone can do it. Making it something worth reading means careful and painstaking revision. No one produces perfection with the first draft.
After writers have done their own exhaustive revision and rewriting, they typically use beta readers to test the piece’s readiness. Beta readers may very well be editors, but more importantly they must be honest enough to tell authors the truth about their pieces. Quality authors want Simon Cowell, not Paula Abdul. Remember a written piece is a product and not one’s baby.
A good beta reader can assess a piece written in any genre because the genre is immaterial to a quality story. If authors have to explain anything about your story before, during, or after a beta reading, they have reworking to do because their pieces are not ready for the editor. 
In revision, the first consideration should be whether the plot makes sense and whether it is well paced. Characters and characterization come next, followed by the setting. These essential parts of the story’s architecture must be solid and consistent. From there, my laundry list as a reader/editor is exhaustive. 
Passive narration (was walking) plummets interest, kills voice, and spikes the boredom factor. Use action verbs (walked) wherever possible to carry the story. Telling writing (She looked beautiful.) causes tune out. Use imagery to show elements to your reader with one caveat: do not fall into the trap of becoming a sensory detail junkie because that can obliterate the plot. Imprecise or general adjectives also deaden the senses. 
Precision and correctness matter. Can an author write about the hustle and bustle of New York without having experienced it directly? If the Mustang a character drives is blood red, why not look up the paint codes for that year and get the real name? If a character’s name has a common spelling USE IT! Creative spellings of established names (e.g. Dillon, Dillan, Dillian for Dylan) make it seem the author does not know the correct spelling and therefore that the piece is flawed.
Finally, use Flesch-Kincaid readability tests (Google) to determine the grade level and ease of your writing. If an author is a YA author and the grade level of the piece is 12 and F-K reading ease is 40, the author has problem.
No matter what, keep writing and working your writing!
Lee Prewett is a career educator, author, editor, and photographer. He lives in Bakersfield, California. He is currently readying the novel The Salton Sea Chronicles: Avenger for publication and is revising/editing The Salton Sea Chronicles: Violator.

"Oh father of the four winds, fill my
sails to cross the sea of years with no provision but an open face along
the straits of fear." Robert Plant

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  1. I'll be posting a follow up on my blog in a few days.
    Lee Prewett

  2. Awesome advice! Thanks for sharing!

  3. This post was filled with great advice. I am both terrified and excited to dive into the long revision now. Thank you.